Is Jeremy Bamber the victim of a miscarriage of justice?
Just before Christmas the Guardian newspaper asked me to review ‘new’ evidence in one of this country’s most violent and horrific murder cases. It took place at an Essex farmhouse in 1985 and involved the murder of husband and wife Neville and June Bamber, their adopted daughter Sheila Caffell and her six-year-old twin boys Daniel and Nicholas.
Police initially suspected that Sheila Caffell, who had a history of mental illness, had gone berserk with a rifle, killing her family and then herself. The scene had the appearance of a straightforward case of murder/suicide and the police carried out a very quick and shoddy investigation.
It wasn’t until relatives found a blood and paint-stained silencer in the farmhouse and when other inconsistencies arose, that a new police investigation team focused attention on Jeremy Bamber, the adopted son of June and Neville. In 1986, Bamber was convicted of the murders by a 10-2 majority verdict and was sentenced to life. He has always protested his innocence.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission is considering the ‘new’ evidence and will announce whether they are going to refer the case to the Court of Appeal in about a week’s time.
In my view, many of the points being raised by the defence are erroneous. But if the new photographic expert’s evidence is correct, it does appear the scene was re-staged during the initial investigation and crucial scratch marks above a cooker may not have been made at the time of the incident.
Even if this is the case, it does not mean that Jeremy Bamber did not commit the murders. It means the trial jury was not provided with accurate evidence, which may result in the need for a re-trial. Unfortunately, Essex police accidentally destroyed a large number of exhibits years ago, which further complicates matters.
It is clear that only Sheila Caffell or Jeremy Bamber could have committed the murders. When I look at all the evidence, Jeremy Bamber remains the most likely suspect. Having said that, it is a close call and I can see why there is an increasing clamour for Bamber to be released.
I think the case would benefit from a new forensic examination of the remaining exhibits and photographs - particularly in relation to the analysis of the patterns of blood-splattering, which could provide additional and useful evidence.
What I find most frustrating is that, had modern DNA techniques and itemised billing for telephone calls been available in 1985, many of the doubts about this troubling case would have been laid to rest a long time ago.
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